Tag Archives: dawn walton

Why it’s good that you are not a horse

There are various terms for conditions associated with a fear of being sick:

  • Emetaphobia : a phobia that causes overwhelming, intense anxiety pertaining to vomiting. This specific phobia can also include subcategories of what causes the anxiety, including a fear of vomiting in public, a fear of seeing vomit, a fear of watching the action of vomiting or fear of being nauseated
  • AFRID (Avoidant / Restrictive Food Intake Disorder)
  • SED (selective eating disorder)

The fear can be of being sick, or of feeling like you are going to be sick, or of choking, or of something else. It’s often connected to an early experience of sickness (either your own or someone else’s) which was so unexpected that it basically freaked out your subconscious.

After observing the sickness event, your subconscious becomes very jumpy.

“Oh my god! That was scary and awful and we need to make sure that NEVER happens again. I know, I will make sure you never eat anything that will cause that”

So you see, it’s a really good thing that you are sick. It’s a really good thing that people can be sick. It’s a really good thing that we can choke.

These things mean your subconscious is doing it’s job really, really well.

It is stopping things getting stuck.

It is stopping things poisoning you by ejecting them from your stomach.

And if we can help your subconscious understand this, it can stop freaking out. And that means you can eat safely.

As a side note, when kids have selective eating of any sort, they are usually ready to change when they hit around 11 years old. This is the age they want to hang out with their friends, maybe in restaurants or go on trips away. This is when the eating thing becomes a problem to them, not just you, and this is when I can help them change. If they don’t want to change because they don’t see a problem, they won’t!

If you have anything like the problems I have described, or you know someone who has, give me a shout and let me help stop the subconsicous freaking out. Email dawn@thinkitchangeit.com

I have learned…

When I was 6 my stepmother hit me for the first time. I had a mark on my top when I came home from school. I learned that doing something that wasn’t allowed resulted in a beating. Unfortunately it wasn’t clear what was and was not allowed.

A year later I cried one night when I heard my stepmother and father arguing loudly. She came to my room and told me she’d hit me if I cried. I learned not to cry.

We were left outside for long periods of time and I learned that my stepmother didn’t want us around. I learned not to complain. I learned not to need anything.

When my grandfather drove me and my brother to my granny’s house, I learned that my brother was older and I had no choice but to do what he told me. He told me to sit in the seat next to my grandfather. My grandfather would put his hand down my pants and molest me on the journey. I didn’t like it. It was uncomfortable, but in comparison to later stuff, it was nothing.

When I was 8 I told a lady from Social Services that I wanted to go and live with my mother, despite being warned not to. That day my father told me he was sad that I didn’t want to live with him any more and that he didn’t love me. I learned that even when I speak up for myself, it makes no difference.

When I was 10 my stepfather came to wish me goodnight. When he kissed me he shoved his tongue into my mouth and said “Not like that a proper kiss”. He went on to teach me “what boys did to girls” over the next few years. I learned anyone could do anything to me and there was nothing I could do.

When I was 12 I told my mother about the abuse. She lost her temper with me and told me never to talk about it again. I learned to shut down. I learned that I couldn’t trust what I felt. I learned to not feel. I learned that it was never safe.

When I was 18 I learned that no one knew anything about my past. I learned that I could be whoever I wanted to be. I buried the child, grew a shell and lived a successful life.

When my first child had to be delivered at only 26 weeks old I learned that my body was as hateful as I’d always believed. I learned it was outside of my control and that this time it had killed my child.

When my daughter was 3 years old and started asking me constantly if I was happy, I learned that it was not ok for my screw ups to affect her and I learned that it was time to change.

When I started Cognitive Hypnotherapy I learned that I was ok. I learned I wasn’t broken. I learned that bad people did bad things to me.

When I took my stepfather to court 6 years ago I learned that I was believed. I learned I could tell my story, and deal with a huge amount of pain.

When he was found not guilty because my mother didn’t corroborate my story, and the defence cleverly suggested it was all stuff my grandfather did, I learned that it wasn’t about me. It wasn’t my fault. Bad stuff happened and the judicial process was not sophisticated enough to deal with it. I learned I was ok.

When I struggled last year because I felt my core was rotten, too rotten for anyone to care about the child me, I learned that I have great friends. They helped me re-connect and forgive the younger me because she was just unlucky. Bad people did bad things. She couldn’t change that.

And all through I learned that I am ok. I am strong. I can deal with anything.

I learned that no matter what you can be happy and connected with your friends and those you hold dear.

I learned that everything can change always.

And now I’m still learning. I’m learning that it’s possible for my head to be fine but for my body to hold on to the fear.

And because I’ve learned that everything can change, and because I have great friends, I am working on that now too.

It’s not what happens to us that causes the problem, it’s the meaning. It’s the meaning that hurts and the meaning is prone to misinterpretation.

You too can change.

You too can learn to see that it’s amazing that you are here, reading this with me now.

The path less travelled

If you walk through a field, then it makes sense to follow the worn path. It’s an easier route to go. 

Unless the worn path goes all round the field. Then it might make more sense to cut a new path straight through the middle. 

At first that new path will be hard going, but pretty soon it will get easier. 

When others notice the new path, they will probably use it too. More footfall means it gets worn down quicker. 

As the other path gets less used, it will grow over until eventually it will not exist at all. 

This is like your brain as you change. 

Each time you do something new you create a new path – a neural pathway. 

Each time you travel that neural pathway by doing the new thing you reinforce it. 

Old pathways disappear as you stop using them. 

Seeking that new pathway and thinking about that new pathway makes it stronger quicker. 

Pretty soon the old way of thinking and behaving is a long forgotten path. 

This is Neuroplasticity. This is what every client I work with goes through. Permanent changes in the brain. 

Effect of childhood on our genes

Yesterday I attended a conference about ACEs – Adverse Childhood Experiences. It was about making Scotland the first ACE aware nation in the world. It was certainly thought provoking. 

I particularly enjoyed the talk from Dr Nadine Burke Harris about the physical implications of what she refers to as “Toxic stress”. 

Toxic Stress

The stress response is a physical and emotional response designed to help us escape sabre toothed tigers. This set of responses is designed to give us the best chance of surviving when fighting or running away from a predator.

  1. The pre-frontal cortex – the thinking part of the brain – is disengaged, because it’s too slow to help us survive. Taking time to think and work out options, in the middle of an attack, is a bad idea.
  2. The heart rate increases
  3. Adrenaline and cortisol flood the body – preparing our organs for instant response. Adrenaline also impacts on the immune system. Not really possible to ask the tiger to come back tomorrow because you have a bad cold right now. Our immune system is directed to preparing to fight infection from any injuries. 
  4. The pain response is adjusted to allow us to keep fighting or running even when injured. 

This all makes total sense – when fighting tigers. 

But what if the threat is violence from a parent, that could happen every day of your childhood. 

What if the threat is emotional or sexual abuse where you are being hurt but not necessarily physically. 

In these situations, the body reacts in exactly the same way. It treats the thing that hurts you emotionally in exactly the same way as if it was going to hurt you physically. 


In itself this is bad enough, but this toxic stress has an effect on your genes through Epigentics. 

Image result for musical notes and notations

The way Nadine described Epigentics was great. If your DNA is the music notes on a piece of music, Epigentics are the musical notation that tells you what to do with the notes such as speeding up, slowing down and pausing

Epigenetics are like a series of little switches that activate and deactive things in your DNA

Because of these Epigenetic switches, right through into adulthood, when the threat is no longer present, the physiological response can remain.

This can lead to physical issues such as diabetes, asthma, heart disease, weight issues and chronic pain conditions such as Chronic Fatigue and Fibromyalgia. 

All is not lost!

There are two ways to address this:

  1. We can work we children to offset the effect of any adverse experiences and prevent them from becoming toxic stress
  2. We can work with adults to re-programme the interpretation of the childhood experiences and switch the Epigenetic switches off again. 

Hold on to your past – it defines you.

When I was 3 I told that my grandfather was molesting me. Nothing changed and it continued until I moved to live with my mother at 8 or 9 years old.

When I was 12 I told my mother I was being abused. Nothing changed and the abuse continued for some time after.

3 years ago I faced my abuser in court and he walked out of the court free. The jury found him not guilty. Nothing changed.

Before I went to live with my mother, I was starved and looked like a skeleton, beaten to the point of being covered in bruises and neglected. School knew. Social Services knew. Nothing changed.

At 14 years old my brother ran away for the first time. He was returned home. At 16 years old he ran away again and this time they couldn’t bring him home.

I stayed.

I went to university, got a degree in computing, met the man who would become my husband, and went on to have a very successful career, eventually ending up on a 6 figure salary in BT. I had a wonderful house, husband and daughter. Everything was amazing.

Except I was still the broken little girl inside. It was all a pretence.

Then I found cognitive hypnotherapy and everything changed.

Nothing changed what had happened, of course. It was me that changed inside. My internal story changed. The meaning behind the events changed.

One day a friend suggested that I should let go of my past as it didn’t serve me any more. I got really upset.

Who would I be if I had not experienced my life?

I am where I am not just because of who I am, but also because of the experiences I went through.


If I wasn’t the person I am, I wouldn’t be here writing this, helping people, trying to change the world, one person at a time. I would be like my brother, a drug addict struggling to keep going each day.

If I hadn’t gone through the experiences I did then it would be unlikely that I would dedicate my life to helping others escape the demons of their past.

So I don’t want to let go of the past. It made me who I am.

I sometimes learn new things about my past. Recently I reconnected with a relative (there are very few people from my past allowed in my present life). I learnt things about what was done, and what people new, that floored me a little. I felt angry and upset. I asked why no one protected me, as I have done many times before.

But this time it was different for me. I didn’t ask what was wrong with me. I didn’t feel even more evil and broken.

I felt upset. Genuinely upset that people would treat a little girl that way.

And I felt in awe of the person that I am. The person that got through that. And the person I have become as a result of that.

So don’t let go of your childhood experiences. You need them. They go with your personal qualities to make you who you are today.

Just keep swimming

I have an approach to life which is very similar to Dory in Finding Dory. No matter how I feel, or what’s going on in my life, I keep going. I say yes when asked to do something, and worry about the details later. If I have something to do, I do it. I don’t put it off until I feel like doing it.

This last week, I have been reciting “Just keep swimming” like a demon.

It is a week that has tested me in every way.

My husband is diabetic. For the past couple of weeks he has been complaining about a problem with his right eye. Turns out he has diabetic retinopathy and will need an operation to save his sight. This operation will result in him losing his peripheral vision. The consequence of this is that there is a high probability he will no longer be able to drive. Now to complicate matters, my husband broke his back in accident around 30 years ago (before I met him) and was paralysed. He wasn’t expected to ever walk again, but he’s stubborn and he did. But he has a piece of bone that rubs his spinal chord when he walks, meaning he has very limited mobility. No driving and limited mobility changes things here quite a lot.

I was due to start a full time Masters in September. I have been getting more and more worried because I haven’t been able to secure any funding for it so as well as forking out £4500 for the 1 year course, my income was also going to be limited. It hadn’t felt right for a while.

But I just keep going no matter what.

However,  when I considered the impracticality of being out of the house more often, along with the possibility of the hubby no longer being able to drive, I made the difficult decision to withdraw from the course. This goes very much against the idea of keeping going whatever!


…I have applied to do another Masters in a different local University. This has funding (I checked!) and there is still the possibility of starting this September. If not , next year will be fine. There is no timescale on it. It’s a means to a end anyway as I really want to do a Phd. I felt a huge sense of relief when I pulled out of the first Masters. It was clear it was the right choice to make.

The hubby has his operation on Wednesday. It’s just a day thing. I have cleared my diary of clients through the day last week and this week.

There really is nothing more I can do. I just have to keep swimming.

For almost everything in life, it has worked out well for me to ignore the doubting voice in my mind. I have taken on things that friends have cautioned against, fearing that I can’t handle it. I stayed in a lower paying job when colleagues left and earned a lot more – because I was looking at long term benefits rather than short term gain. It worked out well as I rose through the ranks in senior management. I trained to become a Cognitive Hypnotherapist, travelling to London for one weekend a month for 10 months, while doing a senior manager job in BT and bringing up my daughter who was then only 3. At the same time I trained for, and ran the London Marathon.

Anything is possible if you don’t listen to your limiting beliefs. This works for me.

But sometimes, you are being stupid to ignore the signs. The Universe does tend to give you clues, if you learn to listen. When the course I wanted had no funding, I should have decided then that it wasn’t right for me.

But we can’t time travel. We make the best decisions we can at any given moment in time. We can merely learn something from them for the decisions we make in the future.

So as Dory says, just keep swimming (and sometimes stop and listen to your friends for a moment!)

Weight Loss and Calibration

There are more and more studies that show that diets don’t really work. Doing something for a temporary period of time to deprive your body of food is not how we are designed. Our body goes into starvation mode…slows down our metabolism and waits. When you have a day off your diet, it stocks up in readiness for the next starvation period.

And so you enter a cycle. Because almost everybody eventually has a day or a week or even a month “off the diet”. And each time you come off it, it’s harder to go back on again.

That’s not to say they can’t work. With a lifestyle change that involves fundamental changes such as exercise, weight lost on a diet can be kept off.

However, why not take a different approach. Often we connect food to something emotional – eating for comfort, food meaning more than fuel.

Imagine if we can reprogramme our brains to remove the emotional meaning of food and just see it for what it is – fuel to get us through the day. Able to truly enjoy what we eat because we can trust ourselves to stop when we’ve had enough or turn down those treats because we genuinely don’t want them and not because we feel we should.

It is possible. Using Cognitive Hypnotherapy to retune the mind. You can read about how I can help with that here

Now most people come to someone like me as a last resort. When they have tried every diet going. Some of them pretty extreme. These people have amazing willpower. Willpower they have used to deprive themselves of something they love. I help them so they have a more natural relationship with food – without constantly battling their subconscious and using their willpower.

But…those of us who have dieted for life (and I am one of those people!) are so used to following strict rules about carbs, syns, points, calories etc that we have never let our body and mind communicate with each other on what they want.

And that can be a tough step to take.

That is where calibration is important.

Think about when you play a game like netball, basketball, bowling etc. Any sport that requires you get a ball into a limited space. Let’s take basketball.

You throw the ball to the net and you have not thrown hard enough so it falls short.

You throw it harder but this time it’s too hard and it bounces off.

You throw a couple more times going a bit too far left and a bit too far right.

And eventually you find the net. You respond to the feedback from the misses and adjust your throw until it goes in.

What does this have to do with weight loss?

Well when you lose weight by retuning your mind you need to calibrate your mind and body. They need to learn to communicate with each other on what works and doesn’t work for you because they’ve never had the freedom to do that before. They have been ignored in favour of diet rules!

So to calibrate sometimes you need to eat more. Lots of food so you know how uncomfortable it is to feel full. And other days you may eat a lot less so you can know how much is too little. That’s calibrating on quantity. It’s important that you take the time to eat whilst doing nothing else. To listen as your stomach becomes more full. To be focussed on that and nothing else.

And then there is calibrating on quality. Sometimes you need to eat that food that you regard as unhealthy – fatty food, food that is all carbohydrates, sweet food. To allow your body to see how that feels. To truly taste it without guilt or fear of consequence because you’ve blown that diet for the day. And then other times you need to eat healthy food or diet foods. And with quality you need to truly taste it. See how it feels on your tongue – the texture and flavour. Savouring and enjoying each mouthful. Or maybe not. Because it might be when you truly notice what you eat that you realise that some things don’t taste as nice as you though they did.

Following rules of a diet are like playing basketball with a blindfold on. You can never calibrate the results if you can’t pay attention to the consequence of what you do.

They don’t understand me!

Ever come across those people that you can’t seem to get through to. Every interaction with them is really frustrating? And yet with other people we feel like we click instantly.

Often this is just because we process information and communicate information in very different ways from each other.

Did you realise the direction that people look in can give you a clue as to how they communicate?

The following diagram is thanks to NLP (it’s based on a right handed person)


Seeing (Looking up and left)

“This is how I see it”

“How do you see it working?”

In order to make sense of things we need to see them. Memories are triggered by images. For me, once something has formed a picture in my head, I understand it. I describe things visually. Everything turns into a picture in my head (you can imagine that whole “imagine people naked” technique for alleviating nerves in presentations just makes me blush!).

Hearing (Looking to the side and left)

“This is how it sounds to me”

“How does that idea sound?”

This is where sounds are more significant. Memories are often triggered by the music that was heard at the time etc. People who are hearing focussed often like to talk a lot because hearing things allows them to make sense of them, even if you aren’t responding.

Feeling (Looking down and right)

“It feels like this…”

“How do you feel about that?”

This is where the way things feel is the most significant. Memories are triggered by how someone felt or by the feeling of something. Feeling people probably have a harder time of it than the other two because things need to be tangible for them to understand them. Experiencing something is how they understand it so they tend to be more practical. There is no point trying to explain something to them. Until they experience it they are unlikely to fully engage.

Thinking (Looking down and left)

“I think it’s like this”…”

“How does that seem to you?”

An thinker has a constant internal dialogue going on in their head. They are never alone because they are always talking to themselves! Everything has to make sense for them to ‘get it’. If you are communicating with them they won’t be listening half the time because the cogs in their head are whirring. The rest of the time they are unlikely to accept something without understand how.

So next time you are struggling to communicate, spend time trying to work out the other persons communicate preferences and then try and match it (you don’t have to move your eyes!) and see how much of a difference it makes!

Chemicals in the brain

Our brains give off a whole bunch of chemicals. In fact it is the understanding of the way the pleasure receptors in our brain and body worked that allowed the development of drug treatment programmes.

An interesting one is Dopamine.

Dopamine, like many things, makes us feel good. We all want to feel good.

So when the brain gets what it wants it releases dopamine and we feel good.


However, our brain getting what it wants is not the same as getting what we need.

For example, our brains love familiarity. When we do what we’ve always done we get a dopamine reward and we feel better.

So if we’ve always felt useless, we get a chemical reward for feeling useless.

If we’ve always avoided social interaction because we are afraid of it for some reason, then we get a chemical reward for avoiding it.

This is all well and good but makes it even harder when you’re working to change. Especially if you have help from a Cognitive Hypnotherapist like me where the change can be quick and profound. In this situation you have to work hard to specifically focus your brain on learning about the new you. You need to make your new behaviours as familiar as the old ones. The sooner you do this, the sooner you get a dopamine reward for those new behaviours.

The good news is that if we specifically work towards being positive, science  has shown that not only are healthy hormones released, but the unhealthy release of cortisol and stress related hormones is less and less. So we get healthy hormones to make us feel good, we get dopamine for repeating it and our body becomes healthier.

So what can you do to change?

Well it’s actually not that difficult. You just need to train (or prime) your brain to focus on the good stuff. Try this simple task everyday – you may be surprised at the difference

At the end of every day write down 3 positive things that happened.

That’s it. They don’t need to be big things. Just positive things.

And because you do it at the end of every day your brain knows to look for it the next day. And the more you look, the more you notice. And the more you notice, the more it becomes familiar.

Try it out.

Seeing a therapist

If you have a problem with your car, you take it to a garage so a mechanic can fix it

It’s not a sign of weakness that you don’t know how to fix your car.

If you have an injury or illness you go to a doctor to help understand what is wrong.

It’s not a sign of weakness that you are not medically qualified to diagnose and fix problems.

If you have something going on in your head that is stopping you being able to live your life fully…

…well what do you do?

The other evening I asked on Twitter if it was a sign of weakness to go and see a therapist. The response was interesting.

Those who had seen a therapist or had friends who had said it was a sign of strength.

Some felt it was better to try and deal with it yourself and that it was a sign of failure to not be able to do that. To “have” to go and see a therapist.

But it’s not a sign of failure to go to a mechanic. Or a doctor.

Sometimes someone else is in a better position, because of their knowledge and experience, to help you.

Does that make you strong or weak? I think neither.

I think saying you are strong or weak for going to see a therapist is a judgement. It is a judgement based on your individual perceptions – the way you see the world.

What would it be like if there was no stigma?

What would it be like if a therapist was considered in the same light as a mechanic or a doctor? How much easier would our lives be if it was ok to go and see someone to help with our heads?

Personally I don’t see it as a sign of strength or weakness. I do see it as a sign of courage.

To overcome the stigma. To overcome the fear of the unknown. To take that first step to get in touch with a therapist takes courage…

but that’s my opinion based on my perceptions.

What do you think?